Therapeutic Swedish Massage

There seems to be some controversy over what exactly is therapeutic Swedish Massage.  Swedish massage is the basic method of massage that is taught in massage school to beginning massage therapists.

Some people get it confused with just being relaxation massage.  While it is probably the main method used for relaxation it is not the only one and it is also used for therapeutic reasons.  Many massage therapists who go on to take training in other methods seem to get confused and think that Swedish Massage is only for relaxation.  It was created for the purpose of being therapeutic – to work with pain, injuries and various conditions that are related to health issues and are causing health issues.

Robert Calvert, historian and founder of Massage Magazine talks about the history of Swedish Massage.  It is not the work of Per Ling as many massage therapists are incorrectly taught in massage school.  Per Ling developed Swedish Gymnastic Movement but did not have any of the things that are now considered to be basic massage strokes in his work.

Basic Swedish massage is defined like this from Robert Calverts pages in history section on Massage Magazine:

Swedish massage is defined in large part by the original strokes that compose its method: effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (striking), and frictions (rubbing), with vibration added later. The French terms – effleurage, petrissage, frictions (massage a’ frictions) and tapotement – were never used by Peter Ling, by any of his successors nor by the Central Gymnastic Institute.

Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909) is generally credited (by physicians such as Emil Kleen and Richard Hael, who researched the origins of massage and gymnastics) as the man who adopted the French names to denote the basic strokes under which he systemized massage as we know it today, as Swedish or classic massage.

There is also some confusion when massage therapists start billing insurance companies and are required to choose a code for the procedure being done.  97124 is supposed to be for therapeutic massage and it is further defined as effleurage, pettrisage and the other so called Swedish Massage Strokes.   It is therapeutic in nature so it can be used to bill insurance companies.   It usually doesn’t pay as much as another code that is sometimes used -97140 and that may be part of the problem.

Swedish massage is also very therapeutic in relaxation mode.  Since most diseases and disease processes are now being linked to stress, it is necessary to have many skilled in relaxation massage.  I personally have never in my 20 years of being in practice had someone who just wanted a relaxation massage that didn’t have some pain, tightness or tenderness in their muscles that needed to be worked out.

Also most of the research that is being done in the massage profession employs using Swedish Massage!  So there again Swedish massage is really therapeutic Swedish Massage.

I created this basic chart on my website a long time ago with the basic strokes and summary of what they do.

See Therapeutic Swedish Massage Section at

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